Singapore

More privileges, duties for Pritam as Opposition Leader

As first such leader, WP's Pritam will get right of first response among MPs, lead scrutiny of the Government, get confidential briefings, and be paid $385,000

As the official Leader of the Opposition (LO), Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh will be given the right of first response among MPs, have more time to speak in Parliament and also get confidential briefings from the Government.

He will also be paid $385,000 a year - double of what other MPs get, and get allowances to hire more staff.

These are among the privileges and resources he will be accorded with the political appointment, a first for Singapore.

Along with them come duties such as leading and organising the scrutiny of the Government's positions and actions.

These details were announced yesterday afternoon in a statement issued by the offices of Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin and Leader of the House Grace Fu, after the two met Mr Singh earlier to give him a run down of his role.

Since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on July 11 that the Government would designate Mr Singh as the LO, there has been much public interest in what the role will entail.

The position is not provided for in either the Constitution or the Standing Orders of Parliament, said the statement, which noted that Singapore has never had formal LOs even in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who led the People's Action Party as the largest opposition party between 1955 and 1959, and Dr Lee Siew Choh, who led the Barisan Sosialis as the largest opposition party between 1961 and 1963, were never formally designated as the LO.

In deciding on the specifics of the office, the Government had looked to other Westminster parliamentary systems such as Australia and Britain, which have formally designated opposition, and also considered Singapore's circumstances.

Mr Singh's duties as the LO include leading the opposition in presenting alternative views in parliamentary debates on policies, Bills and motions.

He will also lead and organise the scrutiny of Government positions and actions.

In addition, he will be consulted on the appointment of opposition MPs to Select Committees, including Standing Select Committees like the Public Accounts Committee.

Noting PM Lee's acknowledgement that the recent election results showed a strong desire among Singaporeans for a greater diversity of views in politics, the statement said: "Designating a Leader of Opposition will recognise this desire while enabling our political system to evolve in a way that maintains our sense of national purpose."

Posting on Facebook last night, Mr Singh said he will allocate 50 per cent of the LO salary for the following purposes:

To assist low-income residents in Hougang SMC, Aljunied GRC and Sengkang GRC through the Workers' Party Community Fund (WPCF) and/or the WP Grassroots Committee; or community programs in Hougang SMC, Aljunied GRC, Sengkang GRC; or charitable or worthy causes; or Workers' Party specific needs.

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Singapore Politics